Auburn, Nevada and Oklahoma were the big winners from Saturday's action.
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.
1. Nevada stuns Boise State – With a 24-7 lead at halftime, Boise State appeared to be in full control and another WAC victory seemed to be in the books. However, just as Auburn did to Alabama earlier on Friday, Nevada rallied from a 17-point deficit and shocked the Broncos to win 34-31 in overtime. Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman had two costly misses, one from 26 yards at the end of the fourth quarter for the win and one in overtime. Leading the Nevada comeback was the rushing attack, wearing down the Broncos in the trenches and dominating the time of possession in the second half. One of the biggest surprises for Boise State was the usage of running back Doug Martin. Martin had only five carries in the second half, after gashing the Nevada defense in the first half. Quarterback Kellen Moore was solid once again, but struggled under constant heat from the Wolf Pack in the second half. After allowing 24 points in the first half, the Nevada defense stepped up and allowed only one touchdown in the final two quarters. Although Brotzman’s two misses were costly, not getting Martin the ball more in the second half, some questionable play calling in overtime and struggling to stop the Wolf Pack rushing attack were each a key factor in the loss.
The loss in Reno seemed eerily similar to West Virginia’s to Pittsburgh in 2007, when the Mountaineers suffered a crushing defeat with a national championship bid on the line. Although the Broncos weren’t necessarily playing for a spot in the title game, had they won against Nevada and beat Utah State this Saturday, a berth in the Rose Bowl would’ve been a great ending to the season. Even though this was a crushing loss, don’t expect the Broncos to slip from contending for a spot among the top 10-15 teams in the near future.
2. Auburn wins Iron Bowl Classic – The 2010 Iron Bowl was one of the most-anticipated games in this fierce rivalry and the play on the field certainly lived up to the hype. Alabama jumped out to a 24-0 lead, but Auburn fought back – just like it has done all season. The Crimson Tide defense held Cam Newton in check on the ground, but the junior made big plays through the air to bring the Tigers back. Newton connected with Terrell Zachery on a 70-yard pass to cut the deficit to 24-14 one minute into third quarter, and Philip Lutzenkirchen on a seven-yard score early in the fourth, which put Auburn up for good 28-27. The Tigers struggled mightily on defense in the first half, allowing 379 yards. However, the defense surrendered only 67 yards to Alabama in the second half. Even though the defense gave up a lot of yards in the first half, it forced two critical turnovers as Alabama was moving into scoring position to keep the game within reach. The win by Auburn in Tuscaloosa snapped a 20-game home winning streak for Alabama.
The Tigers still have one hurdle remaining to play for a national title – South Carolina in the SEC Championship. Even if the Tigers lose next Saturday, Cam Newton likely locked up the Heisman with his performance against Alabama. After a sluggish start and an impressive effort by the Crimson Tide on defense, Newton rallied the Tigers to the victory, making several big plays in the second half. Auburn has lived dangerously on defense all year, but seems to find the answers at halftime to solve their struggles. Gene Chizik’s team is far from perfect, but with an offense that can score in bunches until the defense figures things out, Auburn will be difficult to beat the rest of the year.
3. Sooners claim Bedlam, Big 12 South – As expected, the annual Bedlam matchup provided plenty of fireworks on the scoreboard, but when the dust settled, Oklahoma emerged victorious and as Big 12 South champions. Oklahoma State was hoping to make its first appearance in the Big 12 Championship and everything pointed to a win over the Sooners. However, the Sooners solved their recent road woes, thanks to a big game from quarterback Landry Jones. The sophomore threw for 468 yards and four scores, including two late touchdown tosses to seal the victory. The Oklahoma defense did its part, holding Oklahoma State’s prolific passing attack to 257 yards and picked off quarterback Brandon Weeden three times. The Sooners will face Nebraska in their seventh appearance in the Big 12 title game in the last nine seasons. The last time these two teams met in the Big 12 title game was in 2006, with the Sooners winning 21-7.
4. Three-way tie atop the Big Ten – With the addition of Nebraska and a conference title game, determining the Big Ten champion in 2011 will be an easier process. Wins by Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State on Saturday created a three-way tie atop the Big Ten, leaving the BCS standings as the tiebreaker. Wisconsin ranks as the No. 5 team after the Week 13 release, with Ohio State at No. 6 and Michigan State at No. 8. The Buckeyes appear unlikely to jump Wisconsin, which means the Badgers will play in the Rose Bowl, their first trip to Pasadena since 2000. The Buckeyes are in prime position to be selected as an at-large team into the BCS, with a likely trip to the Sugar Bowl.
5. Big day for Florida State – Saturday shaped up to be a perfect day for Jimbo Fisher and Florida State. The Seminoles crushed Florida 31-7 and clinched a spot into the ACC Championship with Maryland’s victory over NC State. The win over Florida was not only huge for bragging rights in Florida, but should give the Seminoles a boost on the recruiting trail. Fisher went 2-0 in games against Florida State’s biggest rivals – Florida and Miami – and surprisingly, neither game was close. After a messy end to the Bobby Bowden era in Tallahassee, Fisher has answered a lot of critics this year. Sure, the Seminoles had an embarrassing loss to Oklahoma early in the year and lost two close ACC games, but the future looks bright for Florida State. The Seminoles have a chance to play in a BCS game this year with a win over Virginia Tech and should be the favorites to win the ACC Atlantic once again next season.
Other thoughts from Week 13
Although Texas A&M fell short of its bid to play in the Big 12 Championship, coach Mike Sherman has the Aggies on a roll with six consecutive victories. Included in this streak was wins over Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas – quite an impressive finish for a coach on the hot seat after a 3-3 start.
The Big East has been one of the most unpredictable races in college football this year, but wins by Connecticut and West Virginia cleared the picture going into the final weekend. With a win over South Florida, the Huskies win the Big East title. If the Mountaineers beat Rutgers and the Huskies lose, West Virginia wins the conference crown. Pittsburgh still holds an outside chance of winning the conference, but has to have losses by West Virginia and Connecticut. The Panthers went into this season as a heavy favorite, but losses in two out of their last three games have closed out the year on a disappointing note.
One of 2010’s underrated coaching jobs was done by Miami, Ohio’s Mike Haywood. The RedHawks went 1-11 last season, but finished 8-4 this year and will play for the MAC Championship on Friday night against Northern Illinois. The RedHawks only beat one team with a winning record (Temple), but going from 1-11 to 8-4 is quite an accomplishment for Haywood in his second year on the job in Oxford.
Another coach that deserves recognition for the job he did this season is Louisville’s Charlie Strong. The Cardinals were picked last in the Big East preseason polls, but finished 6-6 and will play in a bowl game.
Should Iowa be considered as one of the top disappointments for 2010? The Hawkeyes were considered a preseason candidate to play in a BCS game, but lost their final three games to finish 7-5 – including a puzzling 27-24 loss to Minnesota on Saturday.
After a disappointing 5-7 season, Texas will be one of the most interesting teams to watch this offseason. Coach Mack Brown has hinted at coaching changes and new faces on the offensive staff seem likely. The Longhorns finished 88th nationally in scoring offense and a dismal 116th in turnover margin. With the top recruiting classes coming into Austin every year, going 5-7 is simply unacceptable. Even with significant changes on offense, the Longhorns may need a year to develop the young talent on both sides of the ball before contending for a Big 12 title.
Due to safety concerns, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe decided not to attend Nebraska’s win over Colorado – a victory that clinched a spot in the championship game. Beebee received more than 2,000 e-mails from Nebraska fans angry about the officiating in Week 12’s loss to Texas A&M. If Nebraska beats Oklahoma, won’t the postgame celebration with the commissioner and the Cornhuskers be a little awkward?
Akron’s 22-14 win over Buffalo means every team in the FBS had at least one victory this season. The Zips seemed to improve in November, having a couple of close losses before earning the victory over the Bulls.
Several coaching moves were made over the last week and here’s a look at each situation:
Following an overtime loss to South Florida, Miami decided to pull the plug on the Randy Shannon era. Shannon, a former Miami linebacker, compiled a 28-22 record in four seasons. Although Shannon cleaned up off-the-field issues and graduated his players, the Hurricanes were struggling on the field and attendance at Sun Life Stadium has been awful this year.
Ball State fired Stan Parrish after a 6-18 record in two seasons. Although the Cardinals improved their win total by two from last season, the program has slipped dramatically since Brady Hoke’s final year in 2008.
Louisiana-Lafayette fired coach Rickey Bustle after a 41-65 record in nine seasons. Although Bustle posted four seasons of six wins, the Ragin’ Cajuns never made a bowl appearance and a 3-9 record in 2010 was the final straw.
Indiana has announced Bill Lynch won’t return as its head coach for 2011. Lynch assumed the coaching duties in Bloomington at a difficult time, after the passing of Terry Hoeppner. Lynch led the Hoosiers to a bowl game in 2007, but posted three wins in 2008, four in 2009 and five in 2010. Indiana is losing a couple of key offensive playmakers next season, so expect a rebuilding year next season in Bloomington – no matter who is hired.
Vanderbilt decided not to bring back Robbie Caldwell for a second season. Caldwell served as offensive line coach under Bobby Johnson and got the head coaching job when Bobby Johnson retired this summer. Caldwell’s one season as head coach ended with a 2-10 record.
North Texas is the first school to hire a new coach for 2011, choosing Dan McCarney as its new head man. McCarney compiled a 56-85 record in 12 seasons at Iowa State, but seven out of his final nine seasons resulted in a winning record. The Mean Green should have some momentum with a new stadium in 2011, and McCarney seems like a good fit for this program.
Looking ahead to Week 14
A small sample of what’s ahead
Arizona State vs. Arizona (Thursday)
With a win over Arizona State, Wildcats can earn third-straight season of at least eight wins.
Illinois vs. Fresno State (Friday)
Another opportunity for Pat Hill and Fresno State to knock off an opponent from one of the big six conferences.
Northern Illinois vs. Miami, Ohio (Friday)
RedHawks improved win total by seven from last year, but Huskies are clearly the class of the conference.
Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati
Expected to be one of the top games in the Big East race in the preseason, but instead is a matchup between two disappointing teams.
Connecticut vs. South Florida
The task for Connecticut is simple – win and earn a BCS bid.
Rutgers vs. West Virginia
Mountaineers should handle reeling Scarlet Knights, but need help to win conference title.
Oregon vs. Oregon State
A victory over Oregon State is all that stands between Oregon and the national championship.
USC vs. UCLA
Not much on the line for either team, but battle of Los Angeles is always worth a mention.
South Carolina vs. Auburn
The Gamecocks have steadily improved all year, but is it enough to derail Auburn from a berth in the national championship?
Virginia Tech vs. Florida State
Hokies are one of the nation’s hottest teams with a 10-game winning streak, but Seminoles have won 13 out of the last 14 matchups between these two teams.
Nebraska vs. Oklahoma
One of the best rivalries in the Midwest meets in the final Big 12 Championship.
SMU vs. UCF
The impressive turnaround by June Jones at SMU continues, but draws a tough matchup at UCF.
Taking a look at some of the key players suffering injuries this weekend.
Alabama QB Greg McElroy (concussion) – expected to be back for bowl
Arizona State QB Steven Threet (concussion) – questionable for Week 14
Nebraska DE Cameron Meredith – (ankle) – questionable for Week 14
Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray (knee) – questionable for Week 14
South Florida QB B.J. Daniels – (quad) – questionable for Week 14
TCU QB Andy Dalton (elbow) – expected to be back for bowl
USC S T.J. McDonald (separated shoulder) – doubtful for Week 14
West Virginia DT Chris Neild (hamstring) – probable for Week 14